marital rights

This text is about the rights of women in polygamous relationships. We used both Kiswahili and Maa (Masai) Bible versions and discovered that the wording of the text between the two languages set diverging emphases. According to the informants this makes a big difference as far as the rights of women in marital life are concerned. The text speaks about the three basic needs, which a husband is supposed to provide for all his wives.

The three needs are related to food, clothes and sexuality. In the Maa translation the third need has been replaced with “inheritance”. The question of the informants was: Why did the translator of this text into Maa language decide to use the word “inheritance” instead of “sexual right” or “sexual intercourse”?

It was the assumption of some informants that the right of women to inheritance is more problematic among the Maasai than sexual rights, sexual intercourse or marital rights. By using the term “inheritance” for a term that is translated mostly as “marital rights” and which includes sexual intercourse in other Bible versions, the translator into Maa language ignores the most vital thing for the Maasai women. The underlying issue of marital rights in the Maasai society is connected to the production of children. To be able to obtain an inheritance a woman has to bear children.

Source: Hoyce Jacob Lyimo-Mbowe in Wittenberg: A Lutheran perspective on translating the Bible.